Marines, ANSF respond to local riot
US Marine Corps News
By Lance Cpl. Dwight Henderson, Regimental Combat Team 7
A riotous crowd gathered within the Garmsir District Center bazaar, in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Jan. 12. The riot was believed to have been orchestrated by the Taliban, on false pretenses of the desecration of a Koran by coalition forces earlier in the week.
Inside of the district center were the Marines of the Police Mentoring Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, the district governor, Abdullah Jan, and members of the Afghan National Police.
The first responders were the Marines of Jump Platoon, 2/2, located just up the road in Forward Operating Base Delhi.
"We went out with two vehicles," said Staff Sgt. Dennis M. Gould, the platoon commander of Jump Platoon. "There were roughly 300-400 people close to the district center, and they started throwing rocks at us."
The crowd blocked the entire road to the district center. The first vehicle was pelted by rocks and gunfire to the point that the ballistic glass on the front, driver, and passenger side began to crack. The Marines then retrograded back to FOB Delhi to refit and return with more vehicles and personnel.
Upon returning to FOB Delhi, the Marines from Weapons Company, 2/2, began to prepare their gear and vehicles to enter the bazaar with Jump Platoon.
After some quick coordination with Afghan national security forces, the Marines were on their way to secure the district center.
At this point the crowd had set multiple vehicles and motorcycles on fire. A National Directorate of Security complex, located between FOB Delhi and the bazaar, had been attacked. A newly built school, right across from the district center, had been set on fire along with approximately 300 Korans located inside. Street lights which lined the road through the bazaar had been broken as people climbed on them.
The Marines reached the district center and ensured the Marines inside and the district governor were safe. Then ANSF and local village elders began speaking to the crowd.
"The [International Security Assistant Forces] partnered with ANSF to try and diffuse the situation," said 1st Sgt. Charles R. Williams, the Weapons Company first sergeant.
The entrances to the bazaar from both east and west are bridges, one crossing the Helmand River and the other crossing a large canal. To secure the bazaar, the ANSF, with the help of local elders, convinced the crowd to clear the bazaar and assemble on the other sides of the bridges.
"The ANSF and elders started telling them to go home and let them clear the area," said Williams. "After 10 to 15 minutes they started to clear out."
As the locals began to clear out, the Marines continued to interact with them as they would any other visit into the bazaar.
According to Lance Cpl. Robert C. Treichler, an anti-tank guided missile missileman with Weapons Company, after being there for around 30 minutes, the crowd had receded from the area with the exception of six local children. Treichler took out a bag of sunflower seeds, took a mouthful, and then distributed the rest of the bag to the children who were asking for some with outstretched hands. Seeing this, one of the older children offered Treichler a glass of tea. As he sipped his tea, Treichler taught the child how to say tea in English while the child taught him how to say it in Pashto.
Pfc. Jacob P. Shepherd, an anti-tank guided missile missileman with Weapons Company, moved forward as the crowd subsided from their area.
"We were basically there watching their movements when we noticed a guy on crutches by himself," said Shepherd. "He reached down to pick something up and fell."
After seeing the man fall, both Shepherd and his section leader quickly ran to help him up and retrieved what he was trying to pick up.
"It was a piece of a watch chain or something like that," said Shepherd. "We could sort of notice that the people who were there sort of stopped and were wondering what we were doing with him."
The Marines had left Delhi around noon and by 3 p.m. the bazaar began to operate as it did normally.
"Around 3 p.m. we brought our forces back into the district center," said Gould. "Then the road was open again and the shop owners started opening up shop again."
The order was restored without the need for violent force by the Marines as they stuck to their rules of engagement and escalation of force, and worked to peacefully resolve the situation with great restraint.
"I would say the real successful part, between the ANSF and ISAF forces, was we were able to deescalate the situation without any shots being fired," said Williams.
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